Aquaculture is still a new industry, and many of its claims are based on anecdotal data. Dr. Allen Pattillo with Iowa State University, is gathering hard facts.
He describes it as, "A closed aquaponics system."
Each week at a greenhouse on campus, Pattillo's system replaces 10 percent, five percent, and none of the water in three, 190 gallon systems.
Byproducts from channel catfish in the water tanks help the plants along, and it's this distinction that separates aquaponics from a very similar technology you may have seen in the grocery store called hydroponics.
"Hydroponics rely on inorganic fertilizer in order to feed the plants, and the aquaponics rely on the fish affluent water the poop if you will, coming from the fish, providing that nitrate that's necessary for the plants to grow."
Pattillo's system uses basil, and there's no shortage of it. In his one greenhouse he produces about 30 pounds per cutting.
The amount cut every ten to 14 days could net as much as $300. But Pattillo says his system, which is hobby-scale, is not restricted to basil.
"There are a lot of different plants that can be grown here. Just about anything. We've tried basil and lettuce. A lot of vegetables, just about any vegetable can be grown."
So far Pattillo reports little difference between the three set-ups, but his final results will be out at a later date.
Pattillo says that other systems use iospods to clean surfaces and crayfish as an additional crop, and that a sustainable aquaponics system could even be used in biomedical research